Good progress on Bristol homelessness, but MPs must do more nationally25 June 2020
Green councillor and Bristol West MP candidate Carla Denyer has praised staff at Bristol City Council for their work tackling homelessness during lockdown , but highlighted that some more radical changes are still needed to fix the UK’s broken housing system.
Councillor Denyer has called on the Government to do all it can to support renters, but has also made a particular plea to local Labour MP and Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire to reconsider her party’s proposals , which seem to favour landlords over their tenants.
Denyer starts by explaining what the Council has been doing:
“At a briefing last week, Council staff working on housing and homelessness reported that since lockdown they have moved over 400 people off the streets and out of shared dormitory-style shelters into hotels and other accommodation that allows for social distancing. They are now working on a plan to secure permanent, appropriate and affordable accommodation to try to make sure that nobody goes back to the streets once the hotels reopen.
“This is a mammoth task. I have been so impressed by the commitment of our officers to tackling homelessness in Bristol so far, and fully support their ongoing efforts to house Bristol’s homeless. It will be literally life-saving for some of Bristol’s most vulnerable residents.”
However, Denyer’s praise does not extend to the UK government, or to opposition Labour MPs. She has expressed disappointment with local Labour MP and Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire’s landlord-centric housing policies.
Councillor Denyer lays out the issue:
“Neither Labour nor the Conservatives are doing enough nationally. Those who have been unable to pay rent because of lost earnings during lockdown are still expected to pay it back under both parties’ policies, which will lead to a spiral of debt for many of the poorest in our country.”
“The Green Party and many housing campaigners and unions are calling for extending the temporary ban on evictions, permanently scrapping Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, adjusting benefits to cover rent more fully, and for rent arrears accrued as a result of the crisis to be forgiven. The government has responded to some of these demands, but not all.”
Councillor Denyer said:
“Under Labour’s plan, renters must pay off all coronavirus-related arrears over the next 2 years. Someone whose rent is £800 a month, for example, will have to find an extra £100 a month when household budgets are already likely to be stretched. This will be unaffordable for many, especially during a recession, and will likely lead to increased homelessness. Many Bristolians have expressed surprise that Labour has proposed a policy that seems to prioritise the profits of landlords over keeping people in their homes.”
Denyer, a long-standing member of the ACORN union, and Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green Party, are working with ACORN and other tenants’ rights organisations nationally to call on Labour to reconsider this policy. [3, 4, 5, 6].
- More detail on the council’s current work on homelessness: The ‘One City move on project’ is a 24 month program that seeks to maximise on the current opportunity not to return people to the streets. It includes dealing with the bottleneck in supported housing, expanding the ‘Housing First’ pilot, the Council acquiring new properties itself and working with Housing Associations to increase their social housing offer, and issuing a call out to private landlords to increase their proportion of affordable rentals. They are also working out what can be done for homeless migrants who, because of national government policy, have no recourse to public funds. Further details available on request.
- Press coverage of the Council’s work in May – note that some figures have since been updated: https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/homeless-people-move-hotel-accommodation-4149125
- Labour’s five-point plan: https://labour.org.uk/press/emergency-action-needed-to-protect-renters, covered in Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/may/08/labour-extension-emergency-rent-protections-housing
- ACORN’s demands: https://twitter.com/ACORN_tweets/status/1259110150876680192
- News from Siân Berry: Mayor not budging on coronavirus rent debt https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/assembly/sin-berry/mayor-not-budging-on-coronavirus-rent-debt-0
- Carla Denyer supporting ACORN’s #HousingIsHealth campaign: https://www.facebook.com/acorn.bristol/posts/3163640616999499